Editorial | A poor response to white hate threat

The presence of white supremacist agitators within Boston city limits is hardly a new phenomenon. But Saturday’s march by a group of roughly 100 flag and shield wielding Hitler youth wannabees seemed to catch local authorities unaware and off guard. And that’s something that should alarm all city residents, particularly since these thugs moved through downtown during a busy holiday weekend when Boston was celebrating our central role in the nation’s war of independence. 

Our city has been a target before for extremists on all sides of the political spectrum. Still, it’s very disappointing to know that law enforcement was either unable or unwilling to track the movements of these raiders, particularly after they assaulted a man in Copley Square. The fact that no member of this well-known hate group has yet been held to account for their actions is appalling.

On Tuesday, Mayor Michelle Wu and US Attorney Rachael Rollins convened a meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss — as Wu put it— “the public safety threat that this represents.” In a press conference that followed their huddle, there were very few details offered about the alleged investigation into the Patriot Front’s incursion.

The resulting takeaway: No one in government or law enforcement seems to have known about this group’s mobilization, march, or getaway from Boston via the MBTA. Despite the fact that Boston has been targeted on two previous occasions this year— once in January and again at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston— by organized white hate groups, it was left to ordinary Bostonians and tourists to document and, hopefully, identify the individuals involved.

Boston Police, we were told by the city’s top cop, Greg Long, did not witness the assault of a Black passerby near Copley. Despite the presence of State Police officers, who intervened to protect the Nazi sympathizers from a smaller group of anti-fascists at the T stop in Malden, there were no arrests and, apparently, there have been no summonses issued to date.

Here’s the message that sends: Hate groups can sweep into our city, disrupt the peace, intimidate our citizens with weapons, and assault one of our residents. Then they can catch the Orange Line to decamp for their homes far or near without repercussion. This is shameful.

On Tuesday, Rollins urged the public to “err on the side of reaching out to local public safety officials” if we see a repeat performance underway. She said that she and Wu and others would “be thinking strategically about how we’ll combat this.” And both she and Wu were emphatic about their hope to prosecute those responsible for the violence that did occur. 

For our part, we hope that their urgency is backed up by real action. As we know all too well here in Dorchester, Boston has been the target of radical extremists in the past. We need to step up our efforts to monitor and police hate-baiters who seek to victimize our town again.

There are those who argue that Boston is too busy with our own homegrown acts of violence— such as the flurry of shootings that happened in Dorchester over the holiday weekend— to worry too much about the neo-Nazi threat. That’s nonsense. We can and must be able to protect our citizens from acts of terror across the board.

Given the national tone, it’s essential that the threat of white-supremacist extremists be confronted more urgently here in the Commonwealth and in the City of Boston.

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